Editor's note: An article Oct. 16 explored the possible use of primates in testing at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
The subject of humane responsible animal research is widely misunderstood — as recent letters to the editor illustrate.
Responsible animal research has played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance of the last century for both human and veterinary health. From antibiotics to blood transfusions from dialysis to organ-transplantation from vaccinations to chemotherapy bypass surgery and joint replacement practically every present day protocol for the prevention treatment cure and control of disease pain and suffering is based on knowledge attained through research with animals.
Approximately 95 percent of all lab animals are specialty-bred rats and mice. Nonhuman primates account for less than one-quarter of 1 percent; dogs and cats combined less than one-half of 1 percent. The balance includes rabbits guinea pigs woodchucks pigs sheep armadillos leeches zebra fish squid horseshoe crab sea snails and fruit flies.
Thanks to humane and responsible animal research many diseases that once killed millions of people every year are either treatable or have been eradicated altogether.
Immunizations against polio diphtheria mumps rubella and hepatitis save countless lives and the survival rates from many major diseases are at an all-time high thanks to the discovery of new drugs medical devices and surgical procedures.
Those who argue that it is immoral for animals to be involved in a research process that advances human health conveniently disregard the fact that humane responsible animal research has resulted in many remarkable life-saving and life-extending treatments for cats dogs farm animals wildlife and endangered species.
Pacemakers artificial joints organ transplants freedom from arthritic pain and vaccines for rabies distemper parvo virus infectious hepatitis anthrax tetanus and feline leukemia contribute to longer happier and healthier lives for animals.
New treatments for glaucoma heart disease cancer and hip dysplasia can save extend or enhance the life of a beloved pet and exciting new reproductive techniques are helping to preserve and protect threatened species.
For compassionate as well as scientific reasons researchers are deeply concerned about the well-being of the animals they study and there is no constituency for inhumane treatment.
Poor care results in unreliable research data. And for results to be valid the lab animals must be in good health appropriately healthy and free of undue stress.
Members of the Animal Rights Movement seek to end all animal research for all lines of medical inquiry. Either they choose to reject its well-established validity and usefulness or they believe the life of a rat is equal in importance to that of a child.
The ARM is also responsible for many destructive attacks on university research departments and researchers. Fortunately the vast majority of Americans will not tolerate violent and radical campaigns against the research community and continue to support those who have devoted their lives to advancing healing.
Frankie L. Trull is president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research.